By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
On Tuesday, June 26, the world will observe the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The World Drug Report 2017 states that 29.5 million people globally suffer from drug use disorders, including dependence. Opioids are the most harmful. Read what it says about how drug money affects the economy.
“The report finds that hepatitis C is causing the greatest harm among the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs worldwide…Overall, three times more people who use drugs die from hepatitis C (222,000) than from HIV (60,000)..Mobile communications offer new opportunities to traffickers, while the darknet allows users to anonymously buy drugs with a crypto-currency, such as bitcoin…Typical buyers are recreational users of cannabis, ‘ecstasy’, cocaine, hallucinogens and new psychoactive substances (NPS)…”
“The spectrum of substances available on the drug market has widened considerably… The opioid market in particular is becoming more diversified, with a combination of internationally controlled substances like heroin, and prescription medicines that are either diverted from the legal market or produced as counterfeit medicines.”
The report makes it clear that corruption, the illicit drug trade and poverty reinforce each other: “The wealth and power of some drug trafficking organisations can exceed that of local governments, allowing them to buy protection from law enforcement agents, criminal justice institutions, politicians and the business sector. In doing so, they further reinforce corruption. The rule of law is both an immediate victim and, if it is already weak, an underlying factor that feeds this cycle.”
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that “Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.” Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, of the UNODC says: “There is much work to be done to confront the many harms inflicted by drugs to health, development, peace and security, in all regions of the world…
“Drugs continue to represent a major source of revenue for organized crime networks, but business models are changing, with criminals exploiting new technologies, such as the darknet, that are altering the nature of the illicit drug trade and the types of players involved, with looser, horizontal networks and smaller groups becoming more significant. New ways of delivering drugs further point to the need to involve other sectors such as postal services in the fight against drug trafficking…The many evolving drug challenges also highlight the importance of prevention… but also prevention of crime, corruption, terrorism and violent extremism. “
We in T&T should take this issue more seriously and act to save our nation. The Trinidad and Tobago 2017 Crime & Safety Report of the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory
Council (OSAC)states: “Drug trafficking and gang-related activities continue to fuel the demand for illegal weapons… In Trinidad, the majority of violent crimes…are gang/drug-related or domestic in nature. A significant, growing portion is attributed to the influence of gangs, illegal narcotics, and firearms…Trinidad is a major trans-shipment point for illicit drugs, and drug-related crimes are a significant contributor to crime.” The report also notes the weaknesses in our border control.
Pope Francis continues to speak out against “the scourge of drug trafficking” and its effects: “The scourge of drug-trafficking, which favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use…Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future…Drug addiction is an evil,
and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise…Drug trafficking is, by its very nature, accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.”
Parents, recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction. Parishes can help too. Pastoral care is important e.g. Living Water Community offers drug rehabilitation ministries (Tel: 625-6730).
As the US bishops said in their New Slavery, New Freedom: A Pastoral Message on Substance Abuse: “As people of faith we are called to share our hope and love with those whose lives are already wounded by this epidemic.” Let us help them to create “new lives”.